Nel's New Day

March 25, 2018

‘Be Outraged’

Almost 55 years ago on May 2, 1963, thousands of young people marched in Birmingham and changed the nation. They were bombarded with water from fire hoses, attacked by police dogs, beaten with police batons, and jailed, but others took their place. These young people  took part in the Children’s Crusade because they knew that adults who marched would lose their jobs and homes if they marched for integration. Children took their parents’ places. Martin Luther King, Jr told them, “What you do this day will impact children who have not been born.”

Yesterday young people marched again when over a million people, many of them young people as young as nine years old, participated in the March for Our lives in at least 800 places covering all 50 states throughout the United States and around the world. Cameron Kasky, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas student (Parkland, FL), described their mission when he called on politicians to pass universal background checks and ban the sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. At the speeches, young people registered others to vote.

Signs from protests.

The Park Service no longer estimates the number of people attending protests, and there were no aerial photographs until the event finished. CBS lowballed the figure in Washington at 200,000 while a better estimate might be 800,000.

Congressional legislators went home Friday morning, so today some young people went to them . Inspired by the 54-mile march from Selma to Montgomery (AL) during the civil rights movement, 40 high school activists in Wisconsin are marching 50 miles from Madison to Janesville, home town of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), in a call for gun safety laws. Ryan did not respond to the students’ attempt to contact his office. In February, he said, “We shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens.” A rally is planned at Traxler Park when the march reaches Janesville on March 28.

In his Palm Sunday sermon today, Pope Francis cited World Youth Day, begun by Pope John Paul in 1986 to inspire a community of different cultures and encouraged young people to lead.

Syndicated Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts had powerful messages about gun safety in two recent columns:

“Last week, a puppy died in an airplane overhead bin. Three days later, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy introduced a bill to safeguard pets. But after Columbine and Aurora, after the Navy Yard, Sandy Hook and West Paducah, after Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and San Bernardino, after Charleston, after Tucson, after Fort Hood, after Sutherland Springs, we settle for a thin gruel of cliches — thoughts and prayers, good guys with guns and now is not the time.

“Sure, puppy lives matter. But human lives do, too.”

“And someday, when America is sane, when future generations wonder how it ever was we protected guns more than we did children, or that a disturbed 19-year-old was able to legally purchase a weapon of war, or that carnage became routine, or that some of us said this routine carnage was the price of freedom, maybe we will look back on this as the pivot point. Trump, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and every other politician who accepts money soaked in blood from the extremist NRA should consider themselves on notice.”

Conservatives can argue that Pitts is one of those “liberals” (ugh!) who don’t understand the Constitution. One of the most determined originalists about the document from the Founding Fathers and one of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court also disagrees with the “guns at any cost no matter how many people dead” philosophy of conservative gun owners. Ten years ago, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion of Heller v. D.C. that regulation of gun ownership is compatible with the Second Amendment:

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…” It is “… not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

“Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

“We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller [an earlier case] said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

Meanwhile the NRA voices grow more shrill, claiming that young people aren’t smart enough to do any organizing, that all the marches were created by “gun-hating billionaires and Hollywood elites.” On NRA TV, Colion Noir said to Parkland students if their friends hadn’t died, “no one would know your names.” The NRA is justifying its “good guys” theory at a school with a shooting at Great Mills High School Maryland when a teenager shot and killed his former girlfriend because “only” one person died. Both that school and Parkland had school security officers. Over Great Mills students joined the Washington protest for gun safety laws.

The conservative Arizona Republic misrepresented the 20,000 people at the Phoenix March for Our Lives, first with a headline about a “Clash” with people opposed to gun safety laws and then changing it to “Faced Off” after readers objected. About two dozen people in the anti-March group received half the video coverage, mostly with adults and not the young planners of the March, with vacuous comments about the Second Amendments.

Young advocates of gun safety laws have persevered despite smears about their credibility, insults about their intelligence, and outright death threats. Out-spoken survivors of the Florida school shooting are also receiving death threats. Fox network concentrated its Saturday reports on one Parkland student who supports the NRA.

A Fox survey, however, shows that a majority of respondents, 53 percent, think preventing gun violence is more important than protecting gun rights, compared to the 40 percent how disagree. In other results, 91 percent want criminal background checks to buy a gun, 84 percent ask for mandatory mental health checks, and almost three-fourths believe in raising the minimum age to 21 for buying guns. Fifty-seven percent oppose arming teachers.

Young people are doing more than marching and speaking to the media to make their schools safer. Students against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) have over 315 clubs in 40 states to oppose bullying and encourage inclusiveness. The SAVE philosophy is that an accepting culture in which students don’t feel left out can greatly reduce violence. The program connected with Sandy Hook Promise, started by parents who lost children in the 2012 elementary school massacre in Newtown (CT). Almost 2.5 million students and adults in schools in all states have been trained in at least one of the four Know the Signs programs, beginning with the Start with Hello. The others—Say Something, Safety Assessment and Intervention, and Signs of Suicide—are designed to help protect children from suicide, bullying, and gun violence. Say Something includes anonymous online bullying reporting of suspicious behavior. Grants are available for hosting community-wide events and spread anti-violence and anti-bullying messages. As written in the bible, “A little child shall lead them.”

A few weeks ago, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) said he would rush into the high school without a gun to face a shooter with an AR-15 to save the students; yesterday he took a detour back from his golf course to avoid student protesters.

Rule #4 of Masha Gessen’s primer on surviving in an autocracy: “Be outraged.”  Young people are following that rule, and we should follow them.

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